A long time ago in a personal computing environment that now seems very far away, there was a game called Core War. Two players would each write a “program” in a stripped-down kind of assembly language and the goal was to try and crash the other player’s code while protecting your own program from whatever cyber nastiness the other guy was doling out. Both programs would be loaded into a virtual computer and run simultaneously, and whichever one kept running longest was the winner. It was great fun for hardcore geeks but completely unapproachable by anyone else, and that’s a shame because the learning opportunities in that sort of thing are innumerable.

That, however, was then and this is now and now we have Cargo-Bot. Cargo-Bot is free (as in beer) for the iPad and is the latest in a long line of “programmable” puzzle games that owe their genetic roots to Core War. Take the original idea of writing a program to win a game, give it a dash of the all-time classic Sokoban, and wrap it all up in fun graphics with an easy-to-grok drag and drop “programming” interface and you have a definite winner.

If you have an iPad and have even the faintest interest in puzzle games you should grab this now and take a peek. Cargo-Bot is approachable, fun, and has a lot of depth for a seemingly simple concept. Anyone can have a good time with this, but for younger kids it has the added bonus of being an excellent way to teach both logic construction and process analysis. Interestingly, it was also completely created and coded on the iPad itself with a wildly intriguing new programming app called Codea. Methinks that is a bit of a peek into the future right there.

And did I mention that it’s free? Free, fun, and educational. Sort of like Sesame Street without all the touchy-feely bits. Enjoy.

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